Music To My Beers

By Ginger Johnson

There’s something about music that sets the stage for so many things we enjoy in life. Whether doing housework, working in the yard, or washing the dog, music makes everything better. A recent Huffington Post article, “11 Ways Playing And Listening To Music Help Both Body And Mind,” claims that music positively affects us in many ways, both physically and mentally, from reducing stress to boosting heart health. That, my friends, is music to your beers and to the ears of many a beer brewer.

Yes, beer making and music are in sync and go together like Ginger and Fred gracefully moving across the floor. Maybe you already enjoy drinking beer to music or with music in the background—or maybe even blaring at a concert or while dancing across your own living room floor. Since I’m a music and beer lover myself, I wanted to find out which breweries really use music in their brewing process. We use all kinds of other influences and factors to help us make whatever it is we make every day. Why not beer?!

Music is defined on Dictionary.com as “an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.” It’s also arguably true that making beer is an art form that also expresses ideas and emotions through flavors, styles and seasons.

Empire Brewing Company | Syracuse, New York

Olivia Cerio Olivia Cerio

So started my pursuit of finding craft brewers and breweries that use music as a muse or tool in the actual brewhouse. Enter Olivia Cerio, assistant brewer at Empire Brewing Company. Olivia has long been a fan of music, so it was a natural for her when she began brewing to include it as motivator in the brewhouse. “If I’m not listening to music I have a song playing in my head,” she says. Olivia finds that if a motivating song is running through her head or on the restaurant’s licensed Muzak channel, she tends to work differently and her senses are heightened, making her more aware of what she’s doing and what’s going on. Sounds to me like better beer is made simply be the inclusion of music in the ears of the maker—yet what are some more specific connections we can make bettween the two?

Ladyface Ale Companie | Agoura Hills, California

Cyrena Nouzille and Dave Griffiths

Like Olivia, the impact of listening to music while brewing is a common reason for having tunes on in the brewhouse. Cyrena and Dave of Ladyface Ale Companie feel the same way. When they brewed this year’s batch of Dérailleur® Bière de Garde Cyrena tells me, “Dave sourced some vintage French jazz to put us—and the yeast—’in the mood.’ He’s the resident music-man, as well as beer-man, and always has something à-propos playing.” Judging by their success and enticing food menu at their pub that complements the high quality beer, I’d say the beer is indeed in the mood to make people happy!

Ska Brewing Company | Durango, Colorado

Dave Thibodeau

How about a brewery that named itself after a style of music to start with? Dave Thibodeau, founder of Ska Brewing Company, extols the virtues and inspiration of a genre to their brand. Dave tells me that “music is at the very core of our being and our brewing”—it’s one and the same to the passionate Ska crew. “It’s ‘Ska Brewing’ and we wouldn’t exist as such without music,” says Dave. Ska music is a hybrid of several different styles and a perfect example of how a hybridized source of inspiration leads to a flavorful lineup of beers made by the brewery. With so many beers made by America’s smaller breweries and the almost infinite diversity, it’s easy to see—and hear—the pied piper calling you in.

Cambridge Brewing Co. | Cambridge, Massachusetts

Will Meyers

One of the most unique uses of sound, not necessarily what we’d categorize as music, is practiced by Will Meyers, brewer at Cambridge Brewing Co. (CBC). He tells me in his pursuit of the continued development of CBC’s infamous barrel cellar, he uses tuning forks to give the maturing beer “vibrational therapy.” Will’s background involves intensive music study, so it struck a chord when he started to wonder about the vibrations of the earth and how that may relate to his beers, he wanted to try it.

He thinks of the beer on a cellular level and how yeast are essentially simple taxonomic organisms, so he got into the idea of stimulating the fermentation process by the vibrating tuning forks. The result of Will’s efforts yielded a beer they named Om, a Belgian strong golden ale, that goes through a secondary aging in neutral oak charrd barrels on the way to the glass. Coming from an accomplished brewer who has played seven to eight different instruments and went to school for voice performance classical opera, it’s a connection worth singing about—while of course sipping the enlightenment.

Wynkoop Brewing Company | Denver, Colorado

Marty Jones

“I can absolutely talk about how we make music a part of the presentation of our beer and in our beery activities,” says Marty Jones, marketing guru of Wynkoop Brewing Company. I’d bear witness to this myself as it relates to a recent musical exbeerience with Marty. In January, Wynkoop hosted a workshop for professional guests and accounts that sell their beers. He opened the workshop with a reworded popular 70s era song, playing his guitar and singing spiritedly along. The round of applause cemented the feeling that the guests truly enjoyed this unexpected entertainment accompanying a topic they already loved: beer. Marty’s famous for adding the zest of music at beer conferences too. Further testimony that many people like beer and music to go together in many ways.

That’s A Wrap

Dave from Ska also points out that their packaging is also affected by the music ingrained in their culture. “We’ve brewed band-specific beers, and this obsession has been with us since we were first homebrewing nearly 30 years ago.” Their team has been dancing and listening to ska music for as long as they’ve been around.

Indeed, all the fine beer folks that chimed in found that music was not only enjoyable to them and their bevy of beer enthusiasts making it all happen, it’s an integral part of who they are—making music an essential element to making quality beer.

“Beer is alive,” says Dave. I’d agree. Time to crank it up and get lively with your favorite beer. Enjoy a fresh American craft beer with your favorite music.

Photos © Scott DW Smith

Ginger JohnsonGinger Johnson is a loud laugher and energetic beer enthusiast. You can hear her enjoying beer and she encourages you to join her. She started Women Enjoying Beer to educate and share the great experience of craft beer with women and men everywhere. She works with consumers directly to find out what women want from their beer and beer businesses to market craft beer to women. She believes in beer diplomacy, education, and in being a geek and not a snob. She can be reached at Ginger@WomenEnjoyingBeer.com, via Twitter @womenenjoybeer and on Facebook at Women Enjoying Beer.

Ginger Johnson is a loud laugher and energetic beer enthusiast. You can hear her enjoying beer and she encourages you to join her. She started Women Enjoying Beer to educate and share the great experience of craft beer with women and men everywhere. She works with consumers directly to find out what women want from their beer and beer businesses to market craft beer to women. She believes in beer diplomacy, education and in being a geek and not a snob.

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